Singapore: Trophy-holders Guangzhou Evergrande seized control of their AFC Champions League group with a 3-1 win over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Tuesday, as Uruguay star Diego Forlan scored his first goal for Cerezo Osaka.
A first-half double from Guangzhou striker Gao Lin and a third from Liao Lisheng, either side of Lee Dong-Gook’s solo effort, settled a flowing game and lifted the Chinese champions three points clear in Group G.
Elsewhere, Uruguay international Forlan opened his account for Japan’s Cerezo Osaka in their 4-0 win over Thai champions Buriram United, and Melbourne Victory got the first win of their campaign.
In the clash between the top two teams in Group G, Gao was only handed a spot in the Guangzhou starting line-up after Muriqui, last season’s top-scorer in the competition, was injured in the pre-match warm-up.
And the China international took full advantage, opening the scoring at the Guangzhou Tianhe Stadium after 18 minutes with a close-range finish before deftly heading his side 2-0 ahead two minutes later.
Jeonbuk, who have met Guangzhou in the group stage in each of the past three seasons, pulled a goal back before half-time through skipper Lee Dong-Gook, who pounced on the rebound after his own header hit the post.
But the hosts restored their two-goal cushion just after the hour-mark when Liao Lisheng flicked home a cross by influential Italy midfielder Alessandro Diamanti to make it 3-1.
Earlier Melbourne Victory secured their first win in Group G thanks to a ninth-minute goal from New Zealand striker Kosta Barabarouses, which proved enough to upset Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos 1-0.
In Group E, Forlan netted his first goal in five domestic and Asian games for new club Cerezo Osaka to round off a straightforward win for the home side against Buriram.
Yoichiro Kakitani grabbed his third goal of the tournament after only four minutes and Takumi Minamino struck twice before Forlan, who has formerly played with Manchester United and Atletico Madrid, scored in stoppage time.
Chinese side Shandong Luneng squandered an opportunity to open up a three-point lead after they allowed 10-man Pohang Steelers to battle back from two goals down for a 2-2 draw in South Korea.
The match began disastrously for the home side, who had Shin Kwang-Hoon sent off for deliberate handball and then saw Vagner Love tuck away the resulting penalty after 13 minutes.
Another handball 10 minutes later saw Shandong awarded another penalty and Love once again converted for his fourth goal of the tournament.
But Pohang fought back with captain Kim Tae-Su, reducing the deficit in the 32nd minute before Kim Seung-Dae levelled the scores with 13 minutes remaining. Both sides now have five points, one more than Cerezo.
In Doha, Qatar’s Lekhwiya defeated Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad 2-0 to jump to second spot in Group C on goal difference. Urguguay-born Sebastian Soria opened the account in the 22nd minute and South Korean Nam Tae-Hee scored from the spot in the 73rd minute after Luiz Martin was brought down by Hamad Al Montashari to give Eric Gerets’ side a 2-0 win.
Lekhwiya trail Al Ain by two points after the UAE giants outclassed Iran’s Tractorsazi Tabriz 3-1 with the prolific Asamoah Gyan scoring once in each half and providing the assist for Mohammad Abdul Rahman’s 38th minute goal. Milad Fakhreddini scored the only goal for the Iranians in the 42nd minute.
Meanwhile, in Group A, Iran’s Estheglal bounced back twice to hold UAE’s Al Jazira 2-2. Al Jazira went ahead in the sixth minute through Abdul Aziz Barrada before Gazi Najafabadi equalised in the 17th.
Barrada found the target again in the 56th minute, but Hanif Omranzadeh denied Al Jazira victory with his 65th minute strike.
The second Group A match saw Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab edge Qatar’s Al Rayyan 4-3.
Al Rayyan led 3-2 at half time after being down by a third minute goal from Majid Al Marshadi, but Rafinha put the issue beyond doubt with two goals early in the second half. Kalu Uche netted twice for the Qatar side.
AFC Champions League
Al Estheglal (IRN) 2 Al Jazira (UAE) 2
Al Shabab (KSA) 4 Al Rayyan (QAT) 3
Lekhwiya (QAT) 2 Al Ittihad (KSA) 0
Al Ain (UAE) 3 Tractorsazi Tabriz (IRN) 1
Cerezo Osaka (JPN) 4 Buriram United (THA) 0
Pohang Steelers (KOR) 2 (CHN) 2
Melbourne Victory (AUS) 1 Yokohama F. Marinos (JPN) 0
Guangzhou Evergrande (CHN) 3 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (KOR) 1